White Goods

With an ice climbing trip to Cogne a matter of weeks away Anna and I drove to White Goods for the weekend in order to get some mileage with the sharp bits. My closest experience to dry tooling until now has been the chalk routes at Saltdean and the indoor routes at Swiss Cottage. The style of chalk is not strictly the same as conventional dry tooling venues so I was unsure what grade I was capable of climbing. I wanted to gently ease into the grades for this reason and also offer a pleasant introduction for Anna, for whom this was her first time climbing anything harder than Scottish II. A massive step-up for her.

We warmed up on Cenopath Corner (M4), which was most memorable for the amount of mud at half height. Then Adams (M5), which was far more pleasant and maybe slightly easier due to it being a cleaner route.

Cenopath Corner (M4)
Things got more interesting with Left Wall (M5+), which involved some steep, exhilarating moves through overhung roofs near the base of the climb. I needed to pause momentarily to rest my tired arms above them and refocus for the final wall. It was a lot less steep but I had a lot less gas by this point. I climbed up and right towards the final bolt. I hooked my left axe on a shallow ledge and reached across to clip the bolt at full stretch. Nervously I drew two metres of rope slack and clipped the quickdraw with one eye half on my left axe. Gripped! Then with seemingly all the hard moves completed my axes popped and I fell a short distance onto the last bolt. Ahhhhhhh!! I was devastated given all the hard work put in. My second attempt on top-rope was smooth all the way to the top. With the sequence through the overhangs now clear I think I would lead this clean and efficiently next time without problem.

Left Wall (M5+)
I was keen to push the grade a little more and so finished the day by top-roping Apple (M7), which was excellent. Thin crack placements off the ground gave way to horizontal breaks and a steep final wall on small but positive crack placements. It felt surprisingly steady.

Watching Anna lead Adams in the afternoon was arguably the highlight of the day though. On first attempt her axe dislodged a short distance above the first bolt and she finished up a foot from the ground on a taught rope. Without a word she started the route again unperturbed. This time she found a better axe placement slightly higher to the previous. With patience she hooked her way to the lower-off. From Scottish II to M5 is a mighty leap!

Anna on Adams (M5)
After comfortably climbing M7 on top-rope on Saturday, I was feeling full of confidence to try some harder stuff on lead. Plus there was every incentive to do so, given the safe bolting arrangement. Agent Orange (M6+) looked a suitable challenge although the top half looked thin. I hooked and torqued my way up the initial crack only for my axes to be spat from the ledge at mid-height. Luckily a scrapping desperate hook stuck and I was able to re-established myself. The upper half of the route appeared to offer little in the way of features. After much searching around I eventually latched on to a small hidden hook at full reach and then found another higher up close to the lower-off.

Agent Orange (M6+)
The next route Monoculture (M5+/6) was arguably the finest route of the weekend. It followed a gradual rising left traverse up a wall, around an arête, and above a roof with lots of exposure. I had foolishly believed that the fourth bolt marked the top of the route but this was only halfway in reality. Some neighbouring climbers were on hand to direct me to the next bolt beyond the arête and then to the lower-off, which was hidden until at close quarters.

Starting up Monoculture (M5+/6)
Anna on Monoculture (M5+/6)
With time for one more route I was keen to try an M7 on lead. 'And Pears', to the right of Apple, looked the ideal candidate as the styles looked similar. The former had an apparently ridiculous start beneath a roof. With axes at full reach I hooked onto the roof, progressed my feet higher onto a shelf and then moved my axes up into a crack. Then the physical tussle began. Little was on offer for the feet a good but my axes were bomber. A good stiff pull-up over the roof was what was required. Then higher axe placements in the crack... second bolt clipped... and relax. The top of the route was comparatively easy. My first M7 onsight and a fitting way to round off a great weekend. And maybe still with headroom for the next visit? These were mild achievements compared to Ramon's The Upsetter of course.

Above the roof

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